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Tite-Fix Ltd – Award Winning Fixings and Expert Knowledge

Aimed at: All discerning screw users, especially professionals.

Pros: Choose the exact screw you need from the huge TiteFix range to do the perfect job.

One of the reasons why I started to explore the different kinds of screws on the market was because of an interesting tool show discussion I had a couple of years back with Michael Wilkinson, MD of Tite-Fix Ltd. It soon became clear to me that not only did he have excellent practical and theoretical knowledge of how screws work, he could also demonstrate the various screw-based problems and then give you a solution by choosing a product from Tite-Fix’s huge range.

Tite-Fix was generous enough to send me a box of screws that encompassed 24 different types of screws in various sizes, finishes and drive combinations. The range convinced me that choosing the correct screws can be a simple job as long as you have a few facts at your command. Take these bits of pithy advice from Michael himself, and I am sure you will agree that they make absolute sense: -

“As for the types of drive, Pozi is good as long as the bits fit the recess correctly. We use the drive that suits the screw. Tongue-Tite® has a lost countersunk head and a Torx works best here”.

“Deck-Tite® Plus is A4 stainless steel and is often driven in with an impact driver so we use a No.2 Square drive”.

“Timber-Tite® is a heavy duty screw where Torx suits”.

“On our premium brand multi-purpose Screw-Tite® we use Pozi because in our experience the end-user prefers this, and it is still by far the most widely used recess”.

“I prefer a good Pozi drive. Torx is poor on start-up but works well once the screw has started”.

Tite-Fix has based its range of screws on the “Tri-Lock” threadform and judging by the number of national and international awards the company has won, it has been a great success.

I had a particular problem to solve recently when replacing a series of internal doors so I chose some Hinge-Tite screws. The plain coated brass countersunk screws were easy to centre and start, and were driven into the hinge countersinks, leaving a flush surface between screw and hinge.  I hate the fact that so many standard screws do not seat well because of the self countersinking ribs underneath the head. Another issue is that the heads are often too big to fit the hinges – often caused by the fact that the heads have been designed for power driving and are therefore a bit meatier.

For a more sophisticated finish on window fittings and high quality hardware, the chromed, slightly domed Hinge-Tite screws are perfect. Again, the choice is yours to make the job easy and the clients happy.  

From specialist to generalist now. The award winning Screw-Tite screws are excellent all-rounders available from 12 to 150mm long in various gauges. The Tri-Lock shank means that it is easy to start with less damage to the timber surface.  There is also less likelihood of splitting the edge if you start close to it with these screws.

For flooring – whether it be decking, tongue and groove, chipboard or composites – there is a fantastic choice from the Tite-Fix range. The Tongue –Tite for example has a tiny head that is easily lost into the tongue of a floorboard for a concealed fixing into which the groove can be slotted. Outside? – simple. Just choose the stainless steel variant and you get a free driver bit in the box too.

The above examples are a fraction of Tite-Fix range. While I didn’t get to use all of my Tite-Fix samples, you can bet that I will, eventually, in the course of various jobs. It is simply very satisfying to have the work go well because you chose the best screw for the job – whether it be finish, head size or driving head.  

So, I come back to my point that not all screws are equal -  a shrewd choice of screws for your fixing jobs will not only be more effective, it will also save you time, money and hassle as well.

 

Flex Tools: Try One - Surprises in Your Pocket and in Performance

Aimed at: Professional users, with a bit of an eye on the budget without giving up on performance.

Pros: Impact driver has 180Nm of torque and the combi drill is compact, able and comes with an excellent metal chuck.

In a crowded power tool market it is great to have a niche in which you can dominate. Flex has done this with their famous range of Giraffe wall sanders, chasers, grinders and polishers. So, it is only natural that the company would want to join the competition in the cut throat cordless market too.

This it has done by developing its own lithium ion battery system, complete with sophisticated chargers, heat monitoring and electronic control for tools and chargers. Users would say that these are a minimum for professional quality tools these days, and they would be right. But as I have discovered, the Flex tools I have used match up to current standards and are not a poor relation.

However, in a very brand driven market it is sometimes hard to get the message across, and it is also quite difficult to get end users to think more carefully about their tool choices. On site, I rarely need to top up a battery if I have remembered to charge it up overnight, since my power needs are mostly confined to impact driving and drilling. My observations are that many other trades are in the same boat. But still the view persists that bigger is better. Whereas in fact, I often end up using optional 2.5 Ah battery packs because they are smaller and lighter than 5Ah ones. Surely here is a chance for end users to find ways to get the job done without necessarily paying top prices that premium brands can charge?

The two Flex drivers I was sent for review came well presented in stackable Sortimo L-Boxxes with custom fitted inserts to hold tool, spare battery, chargers and accessories tightly in transit. I like these boxes because they have top and front handles, are very easy to stack and lock together and are as compact as they need to be to contain the tools, so they don’t take up lots of extra space.

First up for review was the PD2G 18.0 Drill driver and hammer. Early impressions are very favourable because the build quality is up there with the best. Clearly this is no budget model and it feels solid and weighty in the hand. The ergonomics of the handling has clearly been thought through with a good rubberised grip on the well-proportioned main handle and a good balance in the hand. There are other strategically placed rubber bumpers on the rear and bottom of the handle so the tool can be stood up or lain down on surfaces without damaging it.

There is a quality, solid metal keyless 12mm chuck which works very well without slipping and is also easy to loosen and tighten. Behind the chuck are two plastic collars, the first to choose the 24 torque positions and the second to select drilling, screwdriving or hammer modes. Both of the collars are robust, move easily without sticking and have sensible grips on them to make adjusting them easy. On top of the drill is a slider switch for selecting high or low gear making speeds from 0- 1650 and 0-380rpm possible. In low speed torque is a very reasonable 70Nm which is enough for most purposes. Trigger arrangement follows the common layout of a push through switch for selecting forward/reverse and a speed sensitive trigger. All works smoothly and the spindle brake works very well too.

The PD 2G has a very good auxiliary handle that is firmly screwed, via tightening clips, onto the front of the alloy gear housing. This can suit left or right handers, but is not adjustable around a collar like some other drills. I also liked the belt hook – as I now sometimes have to use it to hold a tool when I am up on a ladder for example. There is also a handy bit holder that is screwed in opposite the belt hook. Again it can be useful - making it easier to find a driver bit rather than the usual scrabble in a pocket crammed with a whole lot of other bits and pieces.

I liked the smaller 2.5Ah battery at height and in confined spaces, and I found that charging was quick and easy using the diagnostic charger – usually taking about 45 minutes.

While the above drill/driver is good, I wasn’t prepared for the performance of the ID ¼ inch 18.0. It is simply amazing and I worked out why when I looked at the specs – it has an astonishing 180Nm of torque. I have never had it so easy driving concrete screws into dense concrete. It was the Torx driver bits that felt the pressure!

Similarly into wood, even the longest screws I used (150mm) were driven without effort or drama. It really is very good and I liked using it very much.

Like the drill/driver above, the Flex impact driver is very well made, and surprisingly compact in the way that modern impact drivers are. It has a similar pattern of rubberised grip on the handles, motor end and bottom of the handle. So handling and bump protection taken care of. The other controls follow a familiar layout and are thus easy to work with – ergonomics is a strong point on both of these tools.

I used the tools for several weeks on site and I also lent them to a couple of others to garner their opinions. One of the users is a welder who rarely uses cordless tools in his day job, but he was full of praise for their easy handling and they had enough power for him to drill and drive very happily (he used 60mm screws maximum)

The other user had a more demanding project and needed a pair of drivers to get him over a hump because his impact drill had broken and was in the repair shop. He was full of praise for the Flex tools, especially liking the handling and balance and their ability to drive 120mm woodscrews with ease. To say that he was impressed with the impact driver is understating it – I nearly had to wrestle it back off him and I think it is safe to say that he thought it was much better than the (branded) one that was returned from the repair shop.

So, definitely worth a look – my guess is that you will be pleasantly surprised.

 

Hitachi DV18DBXL Combi-The Torque of the Town

Amied at: Professionals in all trades who need a drill with really serious levels of torque for BIG drilling.

Pros: Excellent ergonomics and loads of torque and a 6Ah battery too, for longer working times.

This torquey Combi drill from Hitachi is a brand new, “from the ground up” development, although it would be hard to tell that from just its external appearance. The two key developments on it are the use of a “biggest ever” 6Ah lithium ion battery pack, which is actually the same size and weight as the 5.0ah pack, and a competition-busting 136Nm of “torques”, as Jeremy Clarkson would say.

I have already had a comment from a tradesperson who sniffily told me that trades didn’t need that amount of torque, but I disagree. I seem to have had a few situations recently where I could have done with quite a lot more torque from my drill! For example, using a 75mm hole saw through a bit of 20mm thick hardwood. You may not need the torque often, but when you do, its nice to know its there. Also, with all that torque on tap, the drill seems to work more quietly and responsively – but maybe I am getting ahead of myself.

A quick run down of the Hitachi DV18DBXL proves that the innovations are largely internal – its functions and controls follow a very familiar pattern. The speed sensitive trigger is large enough for a gloved finger and the forward/reverse function is via the push through switch above it.

Behind the quality metal- bodied 13mm chuck, the large collar for changing torque settings is large and easy to grasp and therefore easier to adjust. It has 22 torque settings as well as drill and hammer modes. A slider switch on top of the ABS body casing selects slow or fast motor speeds.

But I think that what users will notice is the very ergonomic handle that the drill boasts. I think it is genuinely comfortable to hold and provides very good grip, especially at higher torques. My feeling was that the designers have made the grip a bit smaller and slightly more hand-shaped to give the level of comfort needed.

Below the handle there are several important features. Not least of these is the 6Ah battery pack, which has a flat base so the drill can be stood on it.

The rails for sliding the battery packs are robust and the battery slides easily on them. The spring-loaded buttons for releasing the battery pack operate positively as well.

On the base of the handle is a bright LED light aimed at the chuck. This switches on and off automatically, and is definitely not a gimmick or “me too” as anyone working in the semi dark or in enclosed spaces will tell you.

Just behind the light is a battery charge indicator so that users can know when to charge up.

There is the customary reversible belt hook too, probably only usable if you have a proper weight-bearing belt round your waist.

The small RFC logo on both sides of the motor housing stands for Reactive Force Control – a posh name for a sophisticated safety clutch. Basically, should the drill bit or whatever, become stuck in the material, the RFC electronics will cut in and stop the motor before the operator breaks a wrist or fingers (with 136Nm of torque on tap it is best to be wary)

The electronics will also cut in to protect the combi from heat build up, battery overloading and deep discharge, as well as maximizing the torque usage, speeds etc of the new brushless motor.

What was a big surprise for me was that this Hitachi combi comes with a 37cm long auxiliary handle. This handle screws into either left or right hand side of the alloy gearbox housing on the front of the tool. The “hand” end has an ergonomic handle with big flanges to prevent hands from coming off it.

I confess that I thought that the length of the auxiliary handle was a bit over the top when I saw it, but when I started testing the torque available from the combi, I realized that there would be times when I would need it.

Unfortunately, because of the demand for sample tools to test, I had a relatively brief window in which to try it out, but I did my best. In the past I have found that some drills I regularly use are unable to drill holes in hardwood when using the three-fluted spiral “speed” drills on the market. In fact, I have often managed to stall a drill bit into the material just past the pilot screw. No such trouble with the Hitachi DV18DBXL – it eats such stuff for breakfast. I drilled 25mm diameter hole after 25mm diameter hole, through 30mm thick, dry and hard oak with the drill not even breaking into a metaphoric sweat. It really has so many guts that you will like having the long auxiliary handle to help control the torque effect.

While it might not look like it because it retains the current Hitachi look and livery, the DV18DXBL is in fact a deliberate move into a new era of drilling by Hitachi.  Using a new and powerful brushless motor and a 6Ah battery pack, there is a focus on compact power that uses the latest electronics to deliver maximum performance for the end user while reducing energy sapping heat from both the motor and battery packs.

The pairing of the 6Ah battery packs and brushless motors maximizes power and run times without the expected extra weight – the new battery packs weigh the same as the “old” ones. Hitachi also assures us that there will be full compatibility with every “slide battery” from 1.5 to 6Ah, and that chargers will be similarly compatible. Charge times will of course vary from old to new, with the new battery packs expected to charge in about 35 minutes.

But even better is that Hitachi intends pricing for the new drill to be VERY competitive. We users will not know the exact pricing details until the launch of the drill in February – but I am sure it will be a pleasant surprise.

For more information on Hitachi Power Tools, please visit www.hitachi-powertools.co.uk

Warn Drill Winch from Arbil- It Works!!

Aimed at: Users who need to move heavy objects with minimal effort.

Pros: Using a drill as a power source is a convenient and versatile way of powering the winch without always relying on mains power.

I must admit that when I heard about the Warn Drill Winch I thought that it was perhaps an idea too far. Or maybe it was a gimmick with too little capacity to be of much use to anyone, let alone anyone needing to move anything substantial.

However, I was wrong on both counts. This winch will move bulky and heavy objects up to 227 Kgs using the power of a corded or cordless (18v and upwards is best) drill. Having tested a cordless drill this issue with a 136Nm torque rating, it looks like the future may well bring even greater capacity for cordless tools and by extension, tools like the Warn Winch.

I have used winches before to pull heavy objects up a ramp laid on steps, drag heavy things into place and also to pull down semi-cut branches from dreaded Leylandii trees into a very limited space accurately. I very quickly learnt what is needed on a winch, and an examination of this one reveals that it is well made, robust and has all the features needed for a useful working life.

There is a nice big grippy handle made in moulded plastic right on top of the winch. The handle makes it easy to carry as well as orienting the user to the two main working ends of the winch. The grey plastic body actually covers the whole of the winch, which of course helps keep fingers and hands well clear of winding parts. Importantly, there is a clear plastic window underneath the handle so that the cable can be monitored as it is wound or unwound. For safety, the cable needs to be wound on so that it does not concentrate on one part of the spindle winder. It is best for the cable to be spread evenly and neatly over the whole drum and the window allows this.

 

Underneath the plastic body is a pressed steel body that is integral – in other words the cable, winder and anchor end are all made in one solidly bolted together unit so that they will not part company under load. There is a rugged cast cable fairlead that serves as a guide to the cable and it will no doubt come in for a bit of friction wear from the cable.

The winding drum is also a solid casting that holds about 10 metres of 4mm diameter steel cable. On the working end of the cable a cast hook with spring closer can be attached to the load usually via a nylon strap. Handily, there is also a red nylon strap that fits onto the hook so that users can pull the cable out without having to touch it, which although very shiny and smooth when new, will soon develop barbs as it is stressed under loads.

It is worth noting that the cable ends are properly attached using steel loops, strong bolts and D Shackles that are clearly strong enough for the specified loads that this winch will pull.  

The “anchor” end of the winch also has a cast hook with spring loaded closer. The hook is designed to rotate using a castellated nut through a big D shackle. Since the “anchor” end is just as important as the “pulling” end when attaching a load, users will need to use these features to get a secure fixing.

On one side of the winch is a big red switch that locks the drum clutch into free or pull mode. This is really easy to use and well marked to minimize any user mistakes.  On the other side of the casing is the 5/16ths inch hexagonal driver shaft onto which the chuck of the chosen drill can be tightened.

One of the ways in which a cordless drill can be used on a winch to pull a substantial load is by using appropriate gearing, the lower the gearing, the greater the load that can be pulled. However, this means that the cable winds very slowly as well. This can be minimised by the way in which the user plans to work with the winch, and remember too that the further out the cable is, the more power is available at the winding drum. As the cable winds onto the drum, the gearing factor will change to be less advantageous.

I looked around for a suitable task to test the Warn winch and a good one presented itself when I had several 25mm thick MDF sheets delivered on a pallet, and I had to move them from the car park to the side of my workshop so that they could be protected from the weather.

Fortunately I have a couple of substantial trees on the edge of the space that I could use as an anchor for the winch. A suitable nylon loop from a local trade outlet was passed around the trunk and the winch was attached with the anchor hook.

I only had to free about 5 metres of cable before I was able to loop securely through the slats and base of the pallet ready for the pull.

I used an18v newish cordless drill driver and an older 650W corded drill for the pull so that I could compare results.

I expected the cordless drill to struggle a bit with the load but the winch gearing is such that it more or less keeps up a constant speed of wind that doesn’t seem to stress the drill motor at all. There is no need to use low speed on the drill either.

I also expected some backlash on the drill handle, but there was none. Clearly the clutch mechanism on the winch works well. With the corded drill of course, there is no danger of running out of battery power, but it was very effective and never felt strained.I was happy with the results because I managed to move about 100 Kgs of MDF sheets single handedly and safely across smooth tarmac. My back was happy too! 

The pull was a bit slower than some winches I have used, but to be honest, I expected that because it is probably the only way to use the power of a cordless drill on a winch. The compact Warn winch is effective, and would be useful for users who need to move or pull heavy things. The freedom of using a cordless drill as a power source will be a major plus point for these users. It is definitely not a toy or a gimmick and is robustly made – so try one!

For more information please visit www.arbil.co.uk

The New Induction Heater Plus From Sykes Pickavant - Leave No Bolt Unstuck!

Amied at: Professionals and keen amatuer engineers and car buffs.

Pros: Easy to use and effective solution to locked on nuts and bolts.

In the past, when I have had to struggle with loosening bolts and nuts that had corroded fast I had only a very few strategies. The usual ones were first to try a longer spanner, then the application of a hammer on the end of the spanner, then a patient sit down while hopefully the WD40 or similar worked, and finally perhaps, using a gas blowtorch to heat the nut to see if the differential expansion would loosen it.

The last option was rarely used because most often I was working on a car and I was scared of starting a fire or causing further damage. The solution in many cases involved a broken bolt, skinned knuckles and a lot of bad language. The Sykes Pickavant Induction Heater is the professionals’ solution to a locked-on bolt where incidental damage to a client’s vehicle is not an option.

The Induction Heater Plus is apparently the redesign, upgrade and replacement for the Sykes Pickavant Miniductor II that will make it more efficient and easier to use.   

If, like me, you had never used an induction heater before, it is time for a bit of science. Although the ultimate effect of using the induction heater is an intense and focused heat, the heat itself is flameless, an important safety factor in motor and engineering trades.

What actually creates the very focused heat is the use of high frequency magnetic fields created by passing a strong electric current through a conductor. Remember making your first electromagnet in Year 8 Science? Remember how it used to get hot if you kept it on too long – well I guess it is the same principle.

What is different about the Induction Heater Plus is that the magnetic fields created around the nut or bolt heats them up in seconds, thus minimizing danger and localizing the heat to where it is most needed.

Hopefully, the first application of heat will be enough to expand the ferrous metal bolt and therefore release it enough for it to be unscrewed using a spanner. 

Most readers are probably wondering what an Induction Heater Plus might actually look like. Imagine a black plastic hexagonal tube about 38cm long. About half of the hexagonal tube is slim enough for an average sized hand to hold it securely. There is a black push button switch in the middle of the tube that has ridges around it to prevent accidental switching. There is no need for a “lock on” switch because the induction heater is so efficient that a few seconds of current is often enough to do the job required. 

The other half of the tube is a couple of centimetres thicker. At the “thick” end there are two plastic ended wingnuts and a grille-like heat shield. The wing nuts are used to secure the ends of the choice of coils that are fed through two holes in the grid so that the electric current can pass through them.

The Induction Heater Plus that was sent for review had about three metres of cable and a standard 110v site plug, although a 230v version is also available.

It is clear that Sykes Pickavant has decided to make this device as versatile and useful as possible and accordingly has provided three heating coils with the basic machine.

The coils each have two strong and rigid uninsulated ends that are pushed through the heat grill into the holes that will provide the current. In the comprehensive instructions it is made clear that the ends of the coils need to be firmly fixed in place with the wingnuts so that good electrical contact can be made and maintained during use.

In the instructions there are also a few pictures of what happens if the coils are used incorrectly or overheated, so there is no real excuse to get it wrong.

The rest of the coils are covered in a silver coloured, finely braided material that clearly has a great resistance to heat.

The first coil I picked out is coiled into a circular shape rather like those “travelling kettle” heating elements you can buy to make tea in hostel rooms!

When in position on the heater, this sticks out ready to be placed over a nut or bolt head up to about 20mm in size. The instructions recommend only a few seconds of heating before using a spanner to release the nut. Further similar applications of heat can be done if it doesn’t release the first time. I hadn’t noticed it before, but a nice bright LED worklight on the end of the tool shines straight onto the working area – no doubt very handy wherever you are working.

Next up was a U-shaped loop that can be custom formed to fit nuts larger than 20mm. Sykes Pickavant recommend that the coil should be formed around the socket size needed for the nut concerned and also reminds us that more coils means more heat – just like putting more windings on your school electromagnet – you get a more powerful magnet, but a lot more heat too!

Lastly in this kit, there is a “free form” coil that can be shaped by the user to a sort of “P” and this can be used to “pop” soft dents in metal. It needs careful handling because the heat can very quickly burn paintwork. I am very glad I tried this function out on a scrap piece of mild steel into which I had hammered a couple of dents. Let’s say I need a bit more experience in using this method before I try it on a real car!

Readers might also like to know that there is an optional heated “mat” that can be used to remove decals, bonded parts and graphics etc. Similar safety and effectiveness rules apply.

Clearly aimed at professionals and enthusiasts, the Sykes Pickavant Induction Heater Plus comes with a Year’s Warranty. It is packed into a custom plastic case with enough room for cable and coils to be packed safely away. It worked very well for me on a set of rusted wheelbarrow nuts and no doubt will be even more useful for professionals where safety and efficiency are crucial. 

For information about Sykes Pickavant, please visit www.sykes-pickavant.com

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